Monday, February 28, 2011

Still Stuck in San Francisco

Greasy Sonja in Her Stroller, En Route to the Kennel

Let's see, the last time I wrote was on Friday, and I expected to be able to pick up the Guppy at the garage and head down the highway to Santa Cruz, where I wanted to spend the weekend, meet some friends I've known online for many years, and pick up some General Delivery mail.


I tried to leave...AGAIN...and the engine still wasn't running right. In low gear or going up hills, it would stall, just like it did the day before when I tried to leave. So it was back to the shop. They decided to bring in a diagnostician from their other garage on Saturday morning. They'd spoken to him and he suspected that the new engine was defective and would have to be replaced. Plus, my carburetor apparently is about shot as well, so they think the whole mechanism will work better if it's replaced, too.

I was really pissed that they would try to send me out of the garage with a vehicle that wasn't working correctly. I asked the manager what his plans were for getting me a place to stay until they get this right. He was noncommittal. He did say perhaps they could pay half of my hotel, or give me some credit on the carburetor replacement (I've already fully paid for the engine replacement, and I won't have to pay for that again).

He also--and I can barely believe this--suggested that one option would be for them to put the Guppy out on the street so I could sleep in it. I think this is about the most irresponsible thing I could imagine a garage owner suggesting--especially considering that Friday night, the coldest weather San Francisco has had all winter was forecast. They were expecting snow, and Buzz wanted to put me on the street rather than commit to taking care of my expenses that are necessitated by the garage's failure to get this job done. Sheesh!

I went back to the hotel down the street from the garage for one night. On Saturday morning, the garage confirmed that they'd be replacing the engine again, and that a replacement would be available on Monday, so I'm looking at getting out of San Francisco this coming Wednesday at the soonest. I decided to move to a cheaper hotel, since Buzz hasn't said how much he's going to help me with my delay costs. I found a guest house, which is really a rooming house for foreign students. It's barely adequate, but more about that below.

I also decided to get Sonja into a kennel or vet's office that does boarding, since it was going to be another five days or so before I could leave town. Saturday morning I was at the garage and was just going to start making kennel plans when I went into the RV to check on Sonja, and she was gone! The driver's side cab window was wide open--even though Buzz and Ian, the technician who had worked on my car all week, knew the cat was in there and that the windows needed to stay shut. (I had vents open on the top of the RV so Sonja had some ventilation.)

I was devastated! The garage keeps its big doors open all day so cars can get in and out, and I figured Sonja had escaped the garage and was a goner. I went to the guest house in tears, and then began doing the footwork to try to get my cat back. I stopped at a pet food store down the street from where I was staying and asked for appropriate ideas and phone numbers, and the guy got me in touch with Animal Control and the SPCA. He also suggested making a poster, so I headed back to the guest house to do that on my computer. Just when I'd emailed the poster to the garage so they could print out some copies and get them posted, I got a call from Buzz. Sonja was in the garage! She'd hidden in a cupboard full of big greasy old auto parts, under a workbench. She was filthy and scared and wouldn't come out.

So I ran...literally ran, with my fake knee and my arthritis and all the garage and got down on the greasy floor and wrecked my clothes and comforted my kitty. I could not get her out from there myself, because of my arthritis--no way I'd be able to get squeezed into the cupboard, grab Sonja, and then back out again. So Buzz had to do it.

I got Sonja back into the RV and then started calling kennels from the Yellow Pages. It was late afternoon by now, and I could only find one place open--the fanciest, most costly place in town, called "Feline Wishes & Caviar Dreams." This place is gorgeous--so much nicer than the place I'm staying, and almost as costly. I got Sonja settled there and then headed back to the guest house.

That night, I discovered that the so-called bed on which I'm supposed to sleep is actually just a folded out futon-style couch. And it's not even a real futon mattress on it! It's just a metal frame that has some stuffing attached to it, and there are these seams where there's no stuffing at all, so I could feel the metal frame as I was laying there. Horrible! I ended up moving the bedding to the floor and sleeping on a hardwood floor with no mattress at all. Me, a 55-year-old woman with arthritis. Sheesh!

So, once again, I was faced with a choice. Should I move to another cheap place? The only ones I could find were hostels that were down in the touristy part of town, near Union Square or Fisherman's Terminal, and I wasn't sure this would be any better. At least at the guest house, I had my own room and decent Internet, and I'd already found a few A.A. meeting places within walking distance. Or should I move back to a more expensive hotel? I decided that perhaps the best thing to try first was to get an air mattress, so I bought one yesterday.

I still did not sleep well even with the air mattress on top of the lousy bed, because the bed is so uneven that I felt like I was falling out, so I put the air mattress on the floor and slept there. Finally, early this morning, it occurred to me to put the air mattress diagonally on the bed so I wouldn't be so affected by the dips and crests, and this worked. I slept in until 8:45 a.m., when the landlady woke me up to tell me that I couldn't have any breakfast this morning because they were starting to remodel the kitchen, where a cold breakfast is usually available from 7 to 10 a.m.

It's Monday, and I have spent most of today working my eBay business. I got a bunch of things that I'd sold packed up and mailed out. I've photographed the next batch of scarves and I will start listing them. I want to get a bunch of work done today, and then tomorrow happens to be the monthly free day at the Museum of Modern Art, so I'm going to take the bus there.

I should call the garage and ask them whether they're gotten the replacement engine today. I don't even want to talk to them anymore, but I am sticking with this AAA garage because of AAA's promise to resolve any disputes.

I did take a nice long walk down Geary to Japantown today, and I saw some beautiful murals on a public building along the way. The one pictured here is made out of one-inch tiles, and it's simply gorgeous. It must have been designed using a photograph of this lovely face.

I've been getting some great support from family and friends, as well as from my online tribes (Babble, Yahoo VanDwellers, my online AA home group, and so on). People have been incredibly nice to me here in San Francisco. I still feel that, if you have to break down someplace, this is a very interesting and fun place to hang out, but it sure as heck is costing me and it's often been frustrating, scary, and stressful.


  1. Just found and am now following your blog. So incredibly sorry to hear of your frustration with the mechanic. It can't be easy to be so patient and tolerant as you have obviously been. Hang in there.

    You're living the life though! I desperately want to do what you're doing. I'm sure it's just the romantic in me, but it looks like fun. Except the mechanical parts!

    We need some more photos of the inside of the camper. I'm really interested in not only the layout, but the little things you'll change along the way. Experience has a way of changing intentional designs.

    Keep on keeping on! And when you get to Wisconsin head to Neenah! You're bound to find good folks here!

  2. Thanks! When I'm back in The Guppy and get to stay someplace cozy for a while, I'm going to do some sewing and stuff. I will definitely be getting to Wisconsin this summer.

  3. Hi, MFS Sue!

    Wow, what an awful experience you're having! It's good to get all the bad stuff out of the way at the beginning of the trip - good planning!!


    YFS Sharon

  4. That's what I figure, too, Sharon. By the time I get to see you in Minnesota this summer, I'll be an old pro at this traveling stuff and things should be working really well. Love, YFS Sue

  5. How fustrating! And scary. I'm glad you found your kitty safe and sound.